Burmese junta deports Korean journalist

Monday, 23 June 2008 20:21

Bangkok – A Korean journalist was deported from Burma by the ruling military junta on Sunday for visiting the office of opposition political party – the National League for Democracy.

Ms. Lee Yu Kyong, a freelance journalist from Korea, was expelled to Thailand after police searched for her at a guest house on Sunday morning for visiting the NLD office.

 She was staying in Okinawa Guest Hose in 32nd Street in Kyauktadar Township in downtown Rangoon from since June 16.

 “At about 7 am [Sunday], five guys from [police] Special Branch arrived. They asked me, ‘where I was on the 18th and 19th’,” said Lee.

“[They] said you came here on a tourist visa. So it’s illegal. And you shouldn’t have gone there with a tourist visa,” Lee quoted the Burmese officers as saying.

She insisted on meeting officers in the Korean embassy but the police officers said, “No, you just have to leave this country,” and an officer arranged the air-ticket for her in the Thai Airways that left Burma at 10 am on Sunday.

However, Lee was able to contact the counselor of the Korean embassy in Rangoon before leaving the country. 

The Burmese officers took away four CDs that had pictures of the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis from her bag but her laptop and cameras were untouched.

Lee said, the police team that included a plainclothes officer from the Special Branch, three others and one in a police uniform did not offer any reason for asking her to leave the country.

“He [the officer] just repeated that I shouldn’t have gone to the NLD office. He did not give me any reason or notice or an explanation,” said Lee.

The Korean counselor later told her that the Burmese officers had assumed that she was trying to meet detained NLD leader Daw Aung San Su Kyi.

“I was [later] taken to the immigration office at the airport and on my passport they stamped “Deportee” and a big star. And the special branch guy, took a lot of photographs of me from various directions,” Lee said.

Lee had tried to get an entry visa into Burma soon after Cyclone Nargis lashed Burma but could not get permission as she applied with her old passport that had journalistic visas to many countries she had visited. 

Finally, she was able to get a new passport and was given permission to enter Burma as a tourist. 

She was trying to go to the Irrawaddy delta, which was the worst affected to cover the devastation by the killer cyclone.

Lee said she had gone to the NLD office in Bahan Township in Rangoon on June 18 to get information regarding cyclone victims.  And on June 19, she attended the birthday celebration of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and witnessed the arrest of several members of the NLD.

“I took some photographs of the incident and may be they [authorities] noticed me at that time,” Lee said.

Burma’s military junta for the second time has deported foreign journalists from the country since Cyclone Nargis struck. 

Earlier in May, a British Broadcasting Corporation reporter was deported from the Rangoon international airport when the journalist tried to enter the country.


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